I've never had a Twitter account before. I'm a part of that generation who spent their adolescence sitting awake staring at MSN Messenger all night and for us, Twitter seemed pointless. At the time, a text limit of 140 characters seemed woefully inadequate to me as a means of self-expression and none of the few friends who actually migrated used the platform regularly enough for creating an account to be worth it. I'm 22 now, and for the first time in my life I need a Twitter account. As a budding independent journalist, the reach and exposure offered by Twitter (as well as its' news and politics oriented user base and efficiently designed hashtags system) are too invaluable to refuse.
I created my account about 20 minutes ago, with the intent of using it to share my next article. My next article was going to be about the Federal Reserve and it was probably going to be incredibly boring. In a sense, then, I suppose I owe Twitter some thanks for placing a great alternative story in my lap. The story they gave me is a story of censorship, bias and assumption of guilt. It's the story of how my freshly-created account was locked after only 3 minutes for violating the Twitter Rules.
This lock is strange, since I'd done absolutely nothing on the site since creating the account. I filled in all the info fields and bio, selected my avatar and uploaded a banner. After, I simply pinned the tab and returned to researching my story. Around 3 minutes later I went back to Twitter, eager to use my newly-acquired tool to gather opinions related to my article's subject - and found the above lockout screen waiting for me.
The inference here is that one of my actions on the site has violated the Rules. My info and bio, avatar or banner image (or some combination of all three) must somehow have broken a Twitter law. How? Well, after a cursory search of Twitter's help page I found this:
So, it appears Twitter thinks I am a bot. What could possibly have given them that idea? It isn't as if I was immediately retweeting 100 times a minute or spamming messages to people. I took the time to upload an avatar and banner image, enter optional additional info such as location, write a bio and so on - all activities I've never seen botted accounts perform. I also connected a valid email address and confirmed it immediately. What did I do that indicates so strongly I'm a bot that it justifies locking my account and demanding a private phone number to unlock it?
"Suit," you might say "Just quit being a bitch and enter your phone number!"
That's all well and good for you, American, but for some reason Twitter won't take my Hong Kong phone number. It provides the option to enter a Hong Kong number, sure, the prefix is there - it just ever actually sends the code to the number you enter. I'm not sure if this is a one-time or recurring glitch and I'm not sure if it's only Hong Kong or other regions too. All I can say is, locking my account and then asking for my number to unlock it only to then swallow my number without unlocking my account irks me. It makes me want to distrust you.
I did get the account unlocked fairly quickly by using a virtual US number (ironically, this is the most spammy thing I did on Twitter today) and thus, I could examine my page and try to work out what may have prompted Twitter to take the action they did. Above is the nefarious unlock page with threats of further locking, allusions to 'keeping the community safe' and an insistence that I re-read the rules I didn't break. This is my page directly after unlocking, displaying the username, display name, avatar and banner I used to create the page.
Ah, I think I know what might have set them off...
Yes, that's definitely it, isn't it? I'm too right-wing to be human! Obvious Russian bot. Despite not breaking any explicit rules, despite not tweeting a single thing and despite giving every piece of info the site asked me for during signup, I was still locked out of my own account for being a bot that violated the rules. Which rules did I violate, Twitter? The explicit ones or the ideological ones? Did I really do something wrong, or did I say something wrong? Did your system detect me progressing through signup at a normal, human rate and somehow falsely flag it as automated activity, or did it just detect keywords you asked it to filter? Is Twitter making an equivalence between certain keywords and non-personhood?
I might be getting a little salty and overly-foily here over nothing, but it really does seem like this happened to me purely because I used explicitly right-wing words and phrases in my banner and bio. There is literally nothing else that they could have interpreted since I did nothing else. There can't be an issue with how I entered the info because I did so at a normal, human pace. The issue must in my view lie with what I entered.
So, are all libertarian pro-gun etc. bots? Or suspected bots? Even when they don't do stuff that bots normally do? Is that fair? I don't think so. I also created another account shortly after my own in the same vain, this time avoiding anything right-wing or non-progressive and including lots of Communist keywords. As of right now, 30 minutes after creation, it remains untouched.
What does this, in addition to the complete failure to act on the Covington calls-to-violence, tell us about Twitter and their explicit, obvious bias?
Thanks for reading, and a massive shoutout to all my loyal Minds subscribers!